Thank You Doug

For today’s blog to make any sense, one should first read yesterday’s installment

Doug, a dear friend of mine, liked yesterday’s post. When I arrived home after work the short email from him below was in my inbox:

Well, I hope you’ve heard from Sherry by now! I just had to find her. What a sweet lady. She recited a two-line poem she wrote that I thought was really insightful: Ode to an Oyster. Oh little oyster, teach me the secret of your world. For who else can take an irritation, and change it to a pearl. Groovy. Have a great rest-of-the-day! Doug

Further down in my inbox was another email:

James, I was contacted early this morning by your friend Doug, he told me about your blog and that you had posted my poem ‘Ghosts’. James I was so touched by your words and couldn’t keep my eyes dry. You did me great honor. Hope to hear from you soon, Sherry

I immediately began a reply:

Dear Sherry,

… This morning when I was writing tears never overtook me, but this evening reading your note they came, but were joyful tears. I so feared your cancer had taken you and am so happy to find my fear was unfounded.

In recent years often my life has been divinely guided. I was led to begin writing goodmorninggratitude. I woke up on a Saturday in April of 2011 and knew I was supposed to begin it. Yet I had never written a blog and spent most of the weekend figuring it out. Then Monday morning, April 25, 2012 I wrote “Hello World” and have written something daily on without fail for 492 days now.

Through illness, business travel, vacations and visits to far away friends and family I have remained faithful to what I feel I was called to do. I have never been as faithful to anything in my entire life. To date goodmorninggratitude has been read in 72 countries and is seen daily by hundreds of readers. I am mystified except to say it’s God’s work. I have no other explanation. When I listen to the soft and gentle direction He gives…. my life always comes to something better than I ever could find by myself.

Sometimes my daily written gratitude is for what I learned from some of the most painful and difficult experiences of my life.  Others days it’s about the pure beauty and good I see. It takes me an hour or so daily to focus, write and complete each post. I could not have predicted how focusing on gratitude would so profoundly change my life. From what I write I get back what I give multiplied many times over. Hearing from you is proof once again of that.

I am so glad you are still filled with life and grateful to know there is more to read that originates from the same tender heart and sharp mind I felt in “Ghosts”. I am emotionally stunned, but happy and glad to hear from you. Thank you for reaching out to me and thank God (and Doug) for causing it to happen. James

Once I read Sherry’s email I wrote Doug:

What a beautiful end to a long work day. Thank you for continuing to contribute good to my life. I am near speechless and don’t know what to say except… God bless you. He blessed me with knowing you.

We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men;
and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads,
our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.
Herman Melville

Thank You Sherry

It has been several weeks since I had visited my favorite used book store and yesterday was pleased to find the poetry section had been restocked. In among the dozen titles I picked from Kahlil Gibran to Susan Polis Schutz, was a loosely bound volume titled “2004 Senior Citizens Poetry” published by Southwestern Oklahoma State University. From the introduction I learned it was a class project for the twelve students whose signatures were within.

Thumbing through the volume last night it was the twentieth page that touched  me to the point of reading it over and over. Not knowing if I would find it, this morning I searched on-line for the piece discovered yesterday. Too obscure and unknown, nothing was found. Reading the lines again this morning I felt something this heartfelt should be put into the world for others to enjoy.


I dance in the moonlight and your ghost in my arms dreaming of what might have been.

I hope that life has been kind to you and that I am not forgotten.

I send warm breezes to kiss your lips that I cannot reach and I envy them.

Time and space has taken their toll, but the memory of you and our lost love lives in the secret places of my heart.

We cannot know what the fates have in store for us as the future has yet to be written.

I wonder, will the paths we choose bring us back to each other or further apart on divergent paths, never to meet again in this life.

I only know that my memories of you warm me like a soft blanket against winters cold grip, comforting me when I feel I can no longer stand strong against the hardness of life.

We will not waste our precious time on ‘what ifs’ but yet in fleeting moments they invade my thoughts without invitation and that is when I dance in the moonlight with your ghost in my arms.

Sherry C. Potter, Ponca City, OK

I searched Google for the author and found an article about medicine access by a “Sherry Potter” who identified herself by saying “I live in rural Oklahoma 8 miles south of Ponca City, Oklahoma. I am the mother of two children, five grandchildren and am going to be a great-grandmother in mid August”. From the references she made I assume that the article was about three years old and “Sherry” was somewhere in her mid to late 60’s.

She goes on to say “I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in March of 2005… I was given just a few years and to date have far exceeded that time frame. All the doctors who are involved in my treatments have expressed their amazement that I have survived this long. I owe it to their treatments and investment in me as a person and my strong faith in my creator, as well as the many prayers made on my behalf.”

While writing this emotions have swelled up several times and I’ve come close to tears more than once. Inside is deep sentiment for this stranger who writes so openly of herself and her feelings. I dare not dig deeper for I fear I will find “Sherry” is not longer with us. For a heart so sweet and a mind so clear, I hope she is still around for her presence surely makes the world a better place. I am grateful to know her, even if ever so slightly. From a distance she touched me.  Thank you Sherry.

There are no strangers here;
only friends you haven’t yet met.
William Butler Yeats

Cultivating Awe

A jaw-dropping moment really can make time appear to stand still – or at least slow down, new research suggests. Regular “awesome” experiences may also improve our mental health and make us nicer people, claim psychologists. 

Awe is the emotion felt when encountering something so vast and overwhelming it alters one’s mental perspective. Examples might include experiencing a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon, taking in the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights, or becoming lost in a dazzling display of stars on a clear, dark night.

The new research found that by fixing the mind to the present moment, awe seems to slow down perceived time. Studies on groups of volunteers showed that experiencing awe made people feel they had more time to spare. This in turn led them to be more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to give up time to help others.

Writing in the journal Psychological Science, the scientists led by Melanie Rudd, from Stanford University in California, concluded: “People increasingly report feeling time-starved, which exacts a toll on health and well-being.”

Drawing on research showing that being in the present moment elongates time perception, we predicted and found that experiencing awe, relative to other states, caused people to perceive they have more time available and lessened impatience.”

“Furthermore, by altering time perception, feeling awe led participants to more strongly desire to spend time helping others and partake in experiential goods over material ones. “A small dose of awe even gave participants a momentary boost in life satisfaction. Thus, these results also have implications for how people spend their time, and underscore the importance and promise of cultivating awe in everyday life.”

Previous studies have linked “lack of time” feelings with an increased risk of high blood pressure as well as headaches, stomach pains and poor sleep quality. Time pressure is also linked to eating unhealthy fast-food diet, failing to engage in leisure experiences, and depression.

The researches added: “Our studies… demonstrated that awe can be elicited by a walk down memory lane, brief story, or even a 60-second commercial. “Therefore, awe-eliciting experiences might offer one effective solution to the feelings of time-starvation that plague so many people in modern life.”  From The Telegraph Birmingham, England

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion.
What you perceive as precious is not time
but the one point that is out of time: the Now.
That is precious indeed.
The more you are focused on time
—past and future—
the more you miss the Now,
the most precious thing there is.
Eckhart Tolle

Wind in the Trees

I find what I go looking for. What I expect seems to manifest itself before me with great frequency. My thoughts shape my life more than any other single factor. Today I feel great and am loving life. With that spirit I choose to begin my day with a thought by Henry Drummond:

…to love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever…

With intention I hope to be more aware today than usual and live closely to the ending passage from the book “Contemplate” by Gwen Frostic, punctuated just as she originally wrote and published it:

Savor each moment of beauty –
The majestic – – and the simple . . .

Listen to silence – – –
that in itself
renders all words meaningless . . . . .

Feel the wind in the trees – – –
The ebb and flow of the tides – – –
Wild wings soaring high – – –
– – – the timeless rhythm of life . . . . .

Dream of stars shining over head – – –
– – of the mystic kinship
that underlies all life . . . . .

Keep a sense of wonder –
and of awe – – – –
– – – – forever

Some mornings I am nearly overtaken with gratefulness to be alive. I relish those days when I begin well and know whatever comes, it will be an outstanding day. What  joy to be conscious and able to witness and experience all I will get to smell, feel, hear, taste and see! Come pain or pleasure, trouble or ease, happiness or grief… it will be a good day. I am grateful to be alive!

You will find as you look back upon your life
that the moments when you have truly lived
are the moments when you have done things
in the spirit of love.
Henry Drummond

White Knight, Boy Scout or Good Guy

My ghosts are still around, but thankfully not as prevalent as they once were. Even when my past is conjured up, I don’t get stuck there for long periods of time as I once did. The echoes of my past mostly sleep until something bushes up against my recall. Like last night…

My best bud M. and I attended a concert last night to see Motley Crue and Kiss. While not a big fan of either, I do enjoy performance art and was not disappointed. Early on came my notice that two rows in front of me was a woman who looked like a girl whose heart I broke badly over thirty years ago. She didn’t “kinda” resemble the one I hurt; she was the spitting image of her when she was 20 years old! I looked again and again at the woman/girl from different angles and my impression was always the same. She looked just like Anna! While some regret will always remain, the realization came that I had reached peace within for the injury I caused her. A while back I wrote here about what I did:

Later between bands at the concert, I glanced around and coming up the stairs ten feet away from me was a woman who strongly resembled another whose heart got broken from being involved with me. Although we had some great times, R. and I were not good for each other from the very beginning. We were both drowning in our own issues while trying to hold on to the other to keep from sinking. The face and body shape of the woman on the stairs was a reminder that threw me back into my regret for how things turned out. She won’t even speak to me today. Still working on forgiving myself for that one, but found the memory last evening came with more serenity than before. That’s progress.

The third memorable sight from the concert last night was a man and woman across the aisle from where I was seated. At first they seemed to be having a good time. With her back to his front they were looking at the stage while dancing with the music and smiling ear to ear. A short while later I glanced over as he began to overtly grope her. First he was grabbing her breasts.  She repeatedly swatted his hand away and smiled nervously. Soon after he began shoving his hand between her jean covered legs. She squirmed and pushed him away with a look somewhere between fear and disgust on her face. Trying not to stare, the next time I looked up he was gone and she was sitting down looking sad and disappointed. The fun was over for her. She just stared at the stage lost in thought from then on and left early with the female friend she was sitting with.

I was angry with the guy for his complete lack of respect for the woman and felt sorry for her. Then I tied it all together; the earlier reminders of the two women I had hurt along with what I had just witnessed across the aisle. While I never disrespected the two I hurt in the way the groping man did her, some of my behavior was just was contemptuous in its own way.

All in all I did not end up lost in remorse last night. Rather, I was simply reminded of what I have done and of what not to do. My reactions show me I have come far. My deeds can’t be undone, but they are no longer transgressions I can’t think about without getting distressed. There is a sort of melancholy peace within that allows me to learn from my past.

A reminder I am left with today is to always show respect for a woman. Whether others see what I do does not matter! How I treat a woman states loudly and boldly how I feel about myself. I am grateful to know at my core is finally the “white knight”, the “boy scout” or the “good guy” I always knew I could be.

Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth.
Only you can be responsible for that.
If you can’t love and respect yourself –
no one else will be able to make that happen.
Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad
and make changes as YOU see fit –
not because you think someone else wants you to be different.
Stacey Charter

August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012

It was five days from my sixteenth birthday at 9:56pm CT when Neil Armstrong spoke the immortal words that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The date was July 20, 1969 and those words were heard live by 450 million people.

Clearly that date was a while ago. My sense of things says it was a few decades but realizing it has been 43 years brings the knowing it was longer ago than my first sense realizes. “tempus fugit” or “time flees” or as is more commonly said today “time flies”. Yes, it does. And the young and vibrant American hero who first walked on the moon all those years ago died yesterday.

New reports will go over and over Neil Armstrong’s life as an astronaut but few will mention some of the odds and ends that make him more accessibly human. Not only has a country lost a hero and citizen, but a family has lost a brother, father, uncle and grandfather. Armstrong was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

He was a “Leo” born Aug. 5, 1930 and his first airplane ride was at age six in a Ford Tri-Motor airplane. Armstrong became a licensed pilot on his 16th birthday before he received a driver’s license. He was active in Boy Scouts and achieved the highest rank of Eagle Scout

His overall grade for his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering was 4.8 out of 6.0. Armstrong was pledged to a fraternity and wrote and co-directed its musical as part of the all-student revue. He was a baritone player in the Purdue All-American Marching Band.

Armstrong flew 78 combat missions in the Korean conflict and was awarded three medals for his service. After leaving NASA, he joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati as a professor of aerospace engineering for eight years.

He was married twice, first to Janet in the 50’s and after they divorced Carol became his wife in the mid 90’s. Armstrong had 3 children with his first wife including one that died around age three.

While still on the moon and being congratulated by then President Nixon, Armstrong said It’s a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations, and with interests and the curiosity and with the vision for the future.

Remembering the experience of the historical Apollo 11 flight lifting off, Neil Armstrong said that: It felt like a train on a bad railroad track, shaking in every direction. And it was loud, really loud.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, His family made this simple request. “Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” share your thoughts at Twitter tag: “#WinkAtTheMoon

I can vividly remember watching the not very clear images on a small black and white television of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. Those strong impressions made on a young teenager then have faded little. Thank you Mr. Armstrong. I will not forget you.

1. Make your own choices about how you want to live your life
2. Don’t let others define you
3. Cherish the things that are most important to you
4. Ignore the criticism of others
5. Stay true to what you believe in
Neil Armstrong’s “Lessons about Life”

The Best of Us Forever

Slowly I have arrived at an understanding of life that makes sense to me.  My conclusion is simple: love is all that matters!

A person is capable of living without many things and able to flourish, but love is essential.  Without love one slowly withers and dies long before a last breath is exhaled. Love makes us human and paints a myriad of color over the black and white of life.

Last night listening to oldies for about two hours it occurred to me that fame and money did not matter much to those rock stars who have passed on. The size of their homes, bank balances, the beauty of their spouse, the speed of their car, the fame achieved– all those things pale into insignificance to the splendor of what it is that makes us tick: LOVE!

Love does not make the world go around – it simply makes the ride worthwhile.

Love is not the highly commercialised circus we see on Valentines Day. It is much deeper and much more profound than sending someone a dozen roses at hugely inflated prices. It is much more than candle lit dinners and fancy chocolates.

We all yearn for that deep connection with others, those moments of bliss, joy, completeness. We crave to have more of those delicious moments we may have had with a romantic partner. Such moments seem so rare and forlorn.

We all remember the blissful moments when strangers have shared their love and made a difference. We all remember the feeling of gratitude in the eyes of someone whom we have helped. We remember how great it feels to do something for someone without expecting anything in return.

We cry when we see happy stories on our TV screens of families reuniting. Such stories touch our hearts and yet they are so rare, as we continue to get bombarded with so much doom and gloom by all the propaganda around us.

We remember the sheer joy of children playing and the love in their eyes. Our hearts skip a beat, we get goose pimples and we get teary eyed when we witness an act of sheer love, pure, unadulterated and unconditional. Such moments literally take our breath away.

Love is much greater than what we feel romantically. It is what makes us sing, dance and makes us human. From

Never before has my heart, soul and mind been as open to love as now. Previously a time never existed where I could feel love as deeply or appreciate it has much. Life has polished me with grit and fine tuned my heart over time to be a vessel capable of containing love, appreciating it and pouring it on others. What a life changer! I am humbly grateful.

Life burns us up like fire,
And Song goes up in Flame:
The radiant body smolders
To the ashes whence it came.

Out of things it rises
With a mouth that laughs and sings,
Backward it fades and falters
Into the char of things.

Yet soars a voice above it-
Love is holy and strong;
the best of us forever
Escapes in Love and Song.
“Life” by John Hall Wheelock

Muffling Gift of Falling Water

Often I have written about my love of rain and how it fills a crack in my soul like nothing else. A long, soaking shower makes me feel safe and protected for reasons I have never fully understood, but I love the feeling just the same. Maybe probing for the why of it would mess it up any way.

This weekend where I live is forecast to have the two days of the first good rain we have had in a long time. The land around is dry and parched. Everything green is suffering and lots of it is only barely clinging to life. So today I celebrate in advance the life-giving rain that is on its way.

From “Rain in Summer” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man’s spoken word.

Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.

Already I know people and the landscape will be more joyful next week than today. The green will burst forward for all to see and the outdoors will be a more pleasant place to work and play. Gratitude will be due Mother Nature and I have already begun expressing my part.

The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected;
I have always considered the rain to be healing — a blanket —
the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day,
or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed
by the information of sunlight and yearn
for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.
Douglas Coupland

Other blogs about rain:
Loving the Rain « Good Morning Gratitude
Loving the Rain Part II « Good Morning Gratitude
Mother Nature Gone Crazy? « Good Morning Gratitude

Life is Filled with Possibility

POSSIBILITY: the condition or fact of being possible; an opportunity to do something, or something that can be done or tried; a future prospect or potential.

Growing mentally, physically and spirituality in the last decade has brought me to a vantage point of being highly grateful for possibility.

Before what is possible truly mattered I had to locate and find comfort being in the present.  First I needed appreciation for the good in my life. That was relatively easy. The difficult lesson was learning to see my bitter harvest of disappointment, heartache and grief needed to be appreciated as much as happiness, achievement and joy.  Otherwise I was only accepting and embracing a portion of my life, not all of it. Accepting “what is and has been”  turned out to be the gateway to believing in possibility. It was there my true hope was born.

As long as I live most anything is possible for me to know, achieve or experience. I can’t have everything I want, but a great deal of my dreams are, with doubt, possible.  The secret is to know what I want most and choose wisely which dream to pursue or open myself to. If I can’t sort out how I feel about a particular endeavor or direction that usually means I should not pursue it or I really don’t want it that much.

The imaginings I desire most to happen have become “can’t, not do”. For me it has actually become that simple. Once I realized I am naturally pulled toward what I should do and repelled by what I should not, making choices became somewhat simpler most of the time. The stumbling block is my thinking mind that wants to weigh every option and make near perfect choices. Within my thoughts it’s easy for me to get lost and lose track of what I am feeling. However, my feelings rarely mislead me.

Making good choices is no longer just about good logic. It’s more about feeling good about what I choose. What an eye opener and I am thankful for the insight.  As long as I live my life is filled with enormous possibility!

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be.
If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing,
it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.
On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it,
I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it
even if I may not have it at the beginning.
Mahatma Gandhi

The True Condition of Your Heart

Many people believe their life story is more unique than that of many others. For some the belief comes from great sadness they have endured. For others the feeling is rooted in challenges over come. Some people see success as their defining elements. There are those who use heartbreak suffered as a sizeable part of their self-definition. Ultimately, we are all one of a kind who has never been before and never will be again. Genetics, environment, circumstances, happenings and the time we live within conspire to mold us uniquely.

Stepping back and trying to find and admit what has shaped me, I find sadness and a desire to be loved are two of my sizeable drivers. There is also depression has been a defining element in my life. Learning to see the difference between sadness and depression was a huge step forward.

In plain terms, I see sadness ranging from simple momentary unhappiness to long-term grief and sorrow. On the other hand depression is a sense of gloominess or dejection that has no specific source, although one usually tries to hang it on something or someone. Depression may come and go, but it never fully passes.

For some reason I have yet to fully understand, being sad and feeling depressed became friends of mine. Unhappy moods became like my favorite ratty clothes: well-known, familiar and comfortably worn just right. I became contented and safe (I thought) in being a “brooding and complicated man”. It was a large part of how I defined myself and found dark comfort from something familiar. I learned how seductive depression, sadness and bad moods can be.

I was ruled by negative feelings such as “oh, poor me”, “I am not loved enough”, “I had a difficult childhood”, “I was abused”, “I’ve had a difficult life”, “I’m not happy”, “I deserve better” and a litany of other self-told excuses. Lost in the darkness I was unhappy and not in control (which I long worked hard to hide). There were true reasons to be angry, sorrowful and grief-stricken, but I had never worked through them. It took getting to middle age to do that. Until then the darkness from the unresolved only got darker.

For me, getting better was not about strength or determination. Instead it took surrender. Until I allowed my negative mid-set to overtake me completely and to topple under the sudden weight of it all, there were no answers to be found. At first it felt smothering to let my feelings overcome me.  But like diving into deep water, I first sank then surfaced, began to breathe and then swim to keep myself afloat and moving forward little by little.

I’ve learned to be aware, yet patient with myself to work though things. Sometimes it takes days, weeks or even months for the full picture to come into focus, long after the initial sting of the pain surfacing is gone. If I remain open without becoming obsessed with a particular issue, the best path always seems to present itself eventually. Whatever comes, I acknowledge it, accept it and make some sort of peace with it. I am grateful for that learned ability and the many who helped me come to practice it.

I say that trials and tests locate a person.
In other words they determine where you are spiritually.
They reveal the true condition of your heart.
How you react under pressure is how the real you reacts.
John Bevere